Breastfeeding is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your baby and the baby can give you. Your breast milk is the ideal mix of proteins, vitamins, and fat for your baby which bolsters immunity against infections, reduces the risk of getting asthma and allergies, helps in digestion, and promotes brain development. And for you the mother, it is a great way to get rid of those extra pounds gained during pregnancy, restores the uterus to its original size, and reduces your risk for osteoporosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and breast and ovarian cancer in your lifetime.
And the breastfeeding bonding experience is invaluable.
But there can be challenges in the crucial first week when you and the baby are trying to figure things out and milk supply is established. There may be resignation and feelings of inadequacy that, “I can’t get this right” and painful breasts and sore nipples. But it will work out. It almost always does.
Women have been breastfeeding babies since the beginning of time. There will be some trial and error to find a comfortable position. Don’t panic. Your baby will not starve. She was born with energy reserves to get through this period.
It is good to know that a baby’s first meal from a mother is not milk, it’s colostrum, a yellowish liquid rich in antibodies that boosts your baby’s immune system and helps the digestive tract develop. Milk starts flowing a few days after you give birth.
There are several positions to breastfeed but the easiest at this point is to sit up straight in the hospital bed or armchair, put a pillow across your lap to bring the baby up to the level of your breast and place pillows to support your arms and back to be in a comfortable position. Make sure your baby is placed skin to skin, tummy to tummy to easily contact all of the nipple and majority of your areola. If your baby isn’t latched on correctly and nursing with a smooth, comfortable rhythm, gently nudge your pinky into the corner of your baby’s mouth to break the suction, remove your nipple, and try again.
Other common positions are:
- Cradle Position – Lay your baby lengthwise across your abdomen. Their head will rest in the crook of your elbow. Use your free hand to assist them to get latched on.
- Cross Cradle Position – This position differs from the cradle hold in that your baby’s head does not rest in the crook of your elbow. Instead, you will use the arm on the same side as the breast you are feeding on to control the breast and assist with latch. The opposite arm will rest along your baby’s back while the hand supports and controls their head. This position is often most helpful early on.
- Football Position – Tuck your baby under your arm on the same side you will be nursing from. Their nose should be level with your nipple. Rest your arm on a pillow for support. Use your hand to support their shoulders, neck, and head. Use your free hand to assist with latch.
- Side-Lying Position – With you being on your side, lay your baby on their side, tummy to tummy next to you in bed. Bring their mouth toward the nipple closest to the bed and put your other arm around them.
For the first few weeks, your baby should be fed every two to three hours for 8-12 feedings daily. Each nursing session could last 20-45 minutes on each breast. It is fine to break the latch if your baby has been on one breast for too long. Feeding time decreases as your baby gets better at sucking and milk production increases.
You will develop an awareness of when your baby is hungry. Babies move their hands toward their mouths, make sucking noises or mouth movements, or move toward your breast to tell you it is feeding time. Babies will also cry if they are too hungry.
Try not to introduce the bottle for about a month because it is easier for your baby to get milk from an artificial nipple and it may be difficult to get them to return to feeding at your breast. Experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (no formula, juice, cereal, or water) and continued breastfeeding for at least one year.
It may take several weeks for your milk-production system to regulate itself and stop leaking and spraying. Drink a large glass of water every time you nurse and remember to take your vitamins.
Seek help early from Glacial Ridge Hospital’s lactation consultants, to get your questions answered to have peace of mind.
- Breast massage – It is very important to use your hands to massage your breasts during feedings to aid in transferring colostrum to your baby early on. Colostrum does not flow easily as mature milk does. Your baby will get more colostrum at each feeding and will be more satisfied after feedings if you massage breasts during your feedings.
- Hands-on pumping – If you need to use a breast pump to remove your colostrum or milk, it is important to use your hands to massage your breasts throughout the pumping session to maximize the amount of colostrum or milk you are able to get out. The more milk you are able to remove, the more milk you will make.
- Breast Pump – Used to express milk for storage, relieve engorgement, or stimulate lactation for women with low milk supply. Breast milk can be safely used within two days if it’s stored in a refrigerator. You can freeze breast milk for up to six months.
- Nursing pillow – Specially designed pillows can help you position your baby correctly and help you be comfortable.
- Nursing bra – It provides support and you don’t have to undress every time you breastfeed. Avoid underwire bras. The wire can put pressure on your milk duct and interfere with milk production.
- Nursing pads – You will need them to wipe up stray milk.
- Glycerin gel pads – Provide relief from sore nipples
Warm or Cool Relief Packs to relieve engorgement and sore nipples
Ice-packs, bags of frozen peas, or cold cabbage leaves to relieve breast pain
- Medical-grade lanolin ointment – Relieves sore nipples.
- Nursing cover – If desired for breastfeeding in public
- Storing expressed milk leads to a loss in Vitamin C. Mayo Clinic provides the following general guidelines for storing breast milk:
- At room temperature, freshly expressed milk can be stored for up to six hours but it is advised to use it within four hours or moved to cold storage.
- Insulated cooler. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored for 24 hours.
- Refrigerator. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of the refrigerator for up to five days. It is advised that the milk is transferred to a freezer within three days if it is going to be stored for a longer period.
- Deep freezer. Freshly expressed breast milk can be stored in the back of a deep freezer for up to 12 months, however, usage within six months is advised.
- It is important to know that storage guidelines might be different for preterm, sick, or hospitalized infants.
- Use the oldest milk first. Don’t use a microwave or high heat to thaw milk. It can burn your baby’s mouth and also degrade antibodies. Place frozen milk overnight in the refrigerator. Gently warm the milk in warm water.
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